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Hollande, the man 'no one saw coming,' prepares to lead France (+video)

Once characterized as unassuming and almost banal, France's president-elect, François Hollande, is now being tagged as 'savvy' and 'steely.'

French president-elect François Hollande unseats Sarkozy
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The president-elect of France who would “change the direction of Europe” has never held high office.

François Hollande has spent decades being underestimated – as leader of the Socialist Party, as a politician in the French National Assembly, as a man in male-centric French politics who was willing to defer his ambitions to those of his partner Ségolène Royal as she ran against Nicolas Sarkozy for president in 2007. During that 2007 campaign, Mr. Hollande was widely derided as “Monsieur Royale.”

Hollande wasn’t even a contender for 2012 until a series of sex scandals sank Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former IMF chief and ostensible Socialist party nominee. Nor was he considered important enough to be invited to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s summer 2009 gala birthday party, says Serge Raffy, Hollande’s biographer.  

In the 2012 French election story line, Hollande was the nice-guy softie who leads by consensus and had a decisiveness problem as party leader 10 years ago. Mr. Sarkozy, the French political Rottweiler, felt sure he would rattle Hollande – his word was “maul” – in nationally televised debates last week.

Yet underestimation by others may have clinched Hollande’s victory Sunday.

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